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Naming Resistance: Ethnographers, Dissidents, and States

Susan Bibler Coutin and Susan F. Hirsch
Anthropological Quarterly
Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 1-17
DOI: 10.2307/3317600
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317600
Page Count: 17
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Naming Resistance: Ethnographers, Dissidents, and States
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Abstract

Ethnographic analyses of political dissidence are deeply implicated in the political contests about which ethnographers write. A comparison of the authors' fieldwork among dissidents in Argentina, Kenya, and the United States reveals both the differing dynamics of contests over the political and the complex ways that ethnographers are situated within such contests. In Argentina during the last period of military rule it was dangerous to be defined as political; in Kenya, when multiparty elections were finally authorized, being recognized as political was a prerequisite for legitimacy; and in the United States, where protest is officially legal but unofficially suspect, being defined as political has advantages and disadvantages. We argue that ethnographic writing is inextricable from such contests, and we advocate more explicit attention to how anthropologists negotiate their positions during fieldwork and how they reposition themselves through their writing.

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